Can we build more sustainable communities?
Today, over half of the people around the world live in cities. It is estimated that by 2030 that proportion will be closer to 60 percent. How we develop our urban infrastructure will have to be much smarter than it is now. The good news is that people are working on more creative ways to plan and build cities and we can learn how to create more livable communities.
Building better cities
Continuing to develop our cities using the planning practices of the past is proving to be unsustainable. Cities of the future will need to accommodate more people, but still reduce the impact they have on the surrounding environment. Peter Calthorpe is someone focused on ensuring we do a better job of future planning for cities. He has seven principles for solving urban sprawl and building smarter, more sustainable cities and his TED talk describes how we can achieve better results.
Garden City – a project that focuses on producing food locally
Garden Pool is a non-profit organization that focuses on helping households and communities create local food systems. The system starts with a fish pond and then you add greenhouses, rainwater harvesting, garden plots and even chickens. Systems like these could reduce the need for food to travel thousands of miles and can be implemented at different scales. You can feed a family or help feed a neighborhood. You choose!
What does a community look like that is built to be sustainable?
Development projects around the world are being designed and built to be more sustainable. This one in Dubai is a great example. Recognized as the “happiest city” in Dubai for the last three years, the development of more than 3500 people is entirely designed around the efficient use of energy and other resources.
Changing our behavior to be more sustainable
If we are to create a society that preserves the planet’s environment and resources for future generations then we can’t leave it to the “other person” to act. There are so many ways we can change what we do and how we act: everything from the food we choose to eat to the way we buy and use consumer products such as clothes.
Making different food choices
What we eat has a major impact on sustainable land use. Clearing forests to serve our food production needs, especially meat production creates a double impact: increasing greenhouse gases while reducing carbon-dioxide consumption. And up to 40% of the food produced in developed countries doesn’t even get as far as the dinner table. That’s terrible! But if we change our food buying behavior, focusing on locally produced food and buying less meat, we can make a tangible contribution to creating a more sustainable food system. Just think what would happen if we all took those steps? Not ony would we change our habits, we would put pressure on the food suppliers to do things differently. Wouldn’t you like to move a combine harvester with only your mind? Well, maybe that is a bit ambitious, but we could certainly make a difference!
Viewing fashion as something longer lasting
Making clothes has a huge impact on climate change. The textile industry contributes around ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—it uses more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The industry’s impact is not limited to global carbon emissions. It also produces about 20 percent of global waste water and 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated when most of these materials could be reused.
Getting started with sustainability
Why not ride a bicycle to work?
The current challenges we face with climate change, pollution, micro-plastics and endangered species may seem like too tall a mountain to climb, but there are lots of small things we can personally to reduce our own impact on the environment. Whether it is recycling, buying local food, or riding your bicycle to school or work instead of driving, it all helps.
You may think that being sustainable costs money, but that is not true. For example, if you ride a bicycle on a five mile journey to and from school or work, that’s a round trip of 10 miles a day. Your change in behavior could save two gallons of gas per week. In just 7 months you will pay for the nice bike you bought to achieve this goal and after that your bicycle would keep giving, saving you money, keeping you fit, and reducing pollution. Win, win, win!
They say it only takes 20% of the people to start a fashion, so why not be one of those fashionistas and start a sustainability “fashion” in your neighborhood?
Why it makes sense to wash your clothes in cold water
Many people still believe that washing their clothes in hot water is the best way to get everything clean, but modern laundry detergents include enzymes that actually work better in cold water. Doing your laundry in cold water is also gentler on your clothes. The material is less likely to wear or fade, which means that favorite item you love to wear will last that little bit longer.
A collaboration between the American Cleaning Institute and the Sustainability Consortium
Imagining a sustainable future
The Weight of Light
If we want a sustainable Earth, we know we will need to take acton to mitigate the effects of climate change. The Weight of Light is a collection of science fiction stories, art, and essays exploring human futures powered by solar energy, with an upbeat, solarpunk twist. What will it be like to live in the photon societies of tomorrow? How will a transition to clean, plentiful energy transform our values, markets, and politics?
Cities of Light
Following on from The Weight of Light, this new book of science fiction, art, and essays from the Center for Science and the Imagination and Center for Energy & Society at Arizona State University explores how solar energy will transform the future of cities and the people who inhabit them. Created in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Cities of Light features stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, S. B. Divya, Deji Olukotun, and Andrew Dana Hudson.